OP Sequence

Episode 01

「王女ヨナ」 (Ōjo Yona)
“Princess Yona”

If you’re looking for a comfy imperial love triangle, best go somewhere else.

If you came upon Yona without knowing anything about the premise, it’s possible you probably thought it was going to be a fairly standard shoujo romance set in a castle. If you did know about the premise (and picked up the hint from the opening scene), you’d know this is a fairly standard shoujo adventure instead. The first episode doesn’t touch on that aspect of the story except at the very beginning and the very end, but nevertheless it’s good to know what you’re getting into.

Instead, this premiere focuses on basic character building. Princess Yona (Saito Chiwa) begins the narrative by flashback, which introduces us to the country of Kouka and her former royal lifestyle. Yona is a spoiled and rather vapid young lady who is only interested in impressing her childhood crush, her cousin Soo-won (Kobayashi Yuusuke). Her father, King Il, is a peace-loving ruler whom Yona describes as a coward for his aversion to weaponry and whom spoils his daughter rotten. However, Il does not approve of Yona’s attraction to Soo-won and prohibits her from chasing after him. Yona’s retainer and childhood friend, Hak, and her other servants seem to support her however, and for a while it seems like Yona’s love might be requited after all. On her sixteenth birthday, Soo-won gives her an ornamental hair pin. Later that night, he kills her father.

Yona the princess isn’t the most interesting character around; she’s spoiled, she’s petty, and she seems to only care about her own happiness. However, it does make sense that she would be; she’s been given everything she’s ever wanted, and her only hardship was that her mother died. Naturally, her broken heart was healed by Soo-won’s kindness and she found herself falling for him. I find Yona to be more compelling after her father has died; at the moment she’s full of despair, but assuming the anime does it right, we’ll soon see more development on that front.

The plot twist is probably the hook that is going to attract most viewers, but for a manga reader like me the hook was in the visuals and production. The episode was very beautifully presented and animated, with lush colors and imagery. I especially loved the instrumental OP and I was glad to see that the first episode was paced quite well. For those of you confused by the foreign sounding names (rather than the usual Japanese ones), the story is set in a fantasy version of Korea (an interesting narrative decision in and of itself, considering the historical tensions between the two countries). I quite like the setting and the way it’s been presented in the premiere, and I hope the quality of the series isn’t diminished (or rushed) in the following episodes.


ED Sequence

ED: 「夜」 (Yoru) by vistlip



  1. Yay! I’m so glad you are covering Akatsuki. :] It wasn’t on the coverage chart for a while so I was afraid RC wasn’t covering it this season.

    Since you also read the manga too, it’ll be even more interesting to hear your thoughts.
    Show Spoiler ▼

    The quality of the adaptation looks better than I expected so far. I somehow never made the connection that it was based off fantasy-Korea, although some parts of the manga reminded me of it. I’m also hoping that the anime does the pivotal moments right.

    Overall, a little better than I expected. 🙂

    1. I’m interested in covering it, but I’m waiting on the a-ok from the big boss that I can. 🙂 So hopefully it will be covered!

      Show Spoiler ▼

      Mhm, it’s really pretty! I hope they don’t rush like they did with Soredemo though. @_@

      1. As to it being rushed…that’s a little doubtful. I read from animenewsnetwork that it will run 2-cour, so they can pace it and end it appropriately perhaps. It depends on how they wrap it up with the writing and up to where they’ll adapt.
        I stopped reading the manga quite early, so there’ll be the element of surprise for me. It’s all good.

        Anyway, I love that Archery game. It’s one of the traditional Korean games, I think. (Or not. I just knew from watching those historical kdramas.)

  2. Random Thoughts:

    Welcome back, Kairi!

    On her sixteenth birthday, Soo-won gives her an ornamental hair pin. Later that night, he kills her father.

    Well that escalated quickly.

    The episode was very beautifully presented and animated, with lush colors and imagery. I especially loved the instrumental OP and I was glad to see that the first episode was paced quite well.

    The promotional poster from the Fall 2014 Season Preview had me think Akatsuki no Yona may have beautiful animation throughout the series, but it is great to have confirmation (at least in the first episode), so thank you for that! On another note, there is an instrumental opening? I’m in!

      1. Whenever Stilts senpai has time to debate on it; preferably when he’s not drunk. ;0 Usually the writer who previewed has first dibs but it could be that someone with seniority wants it more or that Stilts thinks it would be better if I just stuck to one show. Up to him, I trust his judgement; I’d like to cover it if possible though.

  3. I think this did a good job introducing the characters and setting up the plot premise. The comedy was the only part I didn’t care for. I don’t know where this will go, but I have a good impression. There’s plenty of time to develop the characters; I heard this is getting a two-course adaption rather than a one-course.

    I’m most curious about Soo-Won’s reasons for killing the king right now. If it was a simple lust for power, it would have been less risky to attempt to marry Yona. Even Hak suggested that Soo-Won could convince the king. Since he killed the king instead, though, that makes me think there’s more to it.

    I liked it overall.

  4. I hope the big boss gives the ok and it has been said it will be 2 cour so here is hoping they won’t rush a lot of things. But otherwise its really well done for the first episode!!! I was worried about the pacing, but I think its going to be ok. I’m just excited this is getting animated and hopefully the anime world can love this story as much as I do!!!! Also spoilers for KairiShow Spoiler ▼

      1. Well Spoilers Show Spoiler ▼

  5. “If you’re looking for a comfy imperial love triangle, best go somewhere else.”

    You’re cruel, Kairi! I thought I was going to get something sweet here… but I’m glad I was surprised by the twist at the end. Also, Yona seems like the type of character I could root for down the line. Really looking forward to more of this now!

    1. love triangle is very typical of shoujo series that almost compromises of 70% of shoujo series out there with 25% for reverse harems like this one and the rare 5% is where it actually shows a set couple like Sore demo sekai wa utsukushii which are really the better shoujo shows. The rest shoujo series the 95% are garbage just like this one.

  6. Yona’s music composer, Kunihiko Ryo, is a ethnic Korean raised in Japan.

    Under his Korean name Yang Bang-ean, he’s done quite a few music contributions for Korea’s music.
    One of his composing acheivements is his rendition of Korean folk song Arirang, performed at the inauguration ceremony of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

    He also performed his rendition at the handover segment of this year’s Winter Olympics closing ceremony in Sochi, Russia, to mark Pyeongchang as the 2018 hosts,together with pop singer Lee Seung Chul, jazz singer Na Yoon Sun and soprano Jo Soo Mi.

    1. The soundtrack is by Kunihiko Ryo?? That’s wonderful! I love his Twelve Kingdoms and Saiunkoku Monogatari soundtracks. I wasn’t too impressed with the instrumental opening though … it lacks the good, strong climax–it doesn’t quite have the ‘oomph’ that the Twelve Kingdoms instrumental opening had.

  7. Aaaah, so excited! This first episode was a bit bumpy, but was expecting that as the first few chapters were fairly. But it only goes up from here. =)
    Super excited for the next episodes.
    And dat Hak – they adapted him SO well!

  8. I’m happy this is being animated. The visuals are really great. I liked the OP sequence a lot, though Show Spoiler ▼

    And I can’t wait to see Yona’s character development again!! It’s really her transition from the spoiled, clueless girl that makes her compelling to me. And I really like Hak here. Woot.

    Thanks for covering this, Kairi!

  9. So,I’ll be content if I get something of Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii‘s caliber here. I know that show had it’s problems and I didn’t consider it exactly great but for someone who rarely watches shoujo anime like me(not that I watch many shounen shows either),I still liked it quite a bit(it’s a shame if the manga was excellent and the anime was just good-to-very-good though,but oh well).

    That being said,I liked Soredemo as much as I did because it barely used it’s shoujo tropes and treated both it’s male & female viewers equally,which is always something nice to see. Akatsuki no Yona seems like it might play up the reserves harem tropes a bit(and I recall you mentioning that in the season preview as well,Kairi). However, a main heroine surrounded by guys does seem more reasonable when the main character is a princess since it’d be only natural that she’ll have followers/guards.

    Naturally, I have no complaints when it comes to the production values.

    Looking forward to seeing Yona’s adventure!

  10. Although one might say it’s based off Korean culture. I’d say it’s a fusion of Chinese and Korean (and Japanese to a lesser extent). The four dragons in the OP is certainly of Chinese mythology and the cloths are not really Korean.

    …I was just betrayed when one recommended it to me and said it’s Korean. Right now, the only thing I’d say really Korean is the names. Ahhahaha

    1. Well I’m not an expert on Korean mythology by any means, but I do know that there are dragons in their mythology, though I dunno how they work or anything. Regardless, the series is set in a fantasy version of what would be Korea, so it’s natural to see some overlap. Japan itself has a lot of Chinese influence in its culture (just look at Kanji) so I’m not surprised seeing it mixed in here too.

      1. Yeah there are dragons in Korean mythology but not really the four dragons like in the OP.
        As I’ve said, I was just kinda betrayed coming into it and expecting a really Korean experience hahaha
        The only really Korean-inspired here are the names. So hearing that there was a backlash about it based off Korean culture is kinda a bit meh because it seems to be closer to Chinese folklores (went to search about the anime after watching ahahhaa).

        Regardless, it’s still good. It’s just it’s kinda wrong to advertise it’s based off Korea when in fact, it’s really not.

      2. Oh actually, the four dragons in this case are special.

        Show Spoiler ▼

        So they’re not really referencing specific mythology with that. It’s not really like a Japanese period piece that reflects real periods (like the Edo) and then adds fantasy on top; it’s more like a world that happens to be set in a version of what would be a fantasized Korea.

      3. Show Spoiler ▼

      4. There was some backlash from it being partly based on Korea? I though the tension between the countries was mostly on the Korean side. Although I guess it can cause some resentment from the Japanese too.

      5. @Znail: Japan and Korea have historically gotten along very poorly. There’s imperialist Japan and their occupation of Korea, of course, and the tensions over that are not helped by Japanese revisionists who write these kind of things out of their history books. Obviously you know of the resentment that gets stirred up about Japan in South Korea, and that’s a beehive that authors often prefer not to poke at. Japanese domestic policy also exacerbates the issue. Japanese society is highly homogenous and often xenophobic, which does Koreans living there no favours. Even those born in Japan but are ethnically Korean are considered foreigners and are essentially treated as second-class citizens.

        If you ask the Chinese, they would of course say all culture in Asia came out of the Middle Kingdom. This is a tricky issue, because China, Japan and Korea were at various points in history major powers in East Asia, and they alternatively warred against and traded with each other so much that it’s all a big melting pot over there, even if traditionally China is usually the most dominant hegemony.

      6. @Znail

        I don’t know if you watched Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, but that started a pretty big s***storm over in Japan simply because it added a Korean dish where there wasn’t initially one in the source.

        It ended up getting mass 1-starred on Amazon and didn’t even get close to the amount of sales it should have.

        And then there’s Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko in which someone… I think it was the director, maybe even the original author himself had to apologize for a Korean band poster being added into a scene by the people they outsourced some of the animation to.

        Honestly, I’m not surprised something set in Korea (at least a part I guess) managed to cause a big stink.

    1. The interesting part of this series, at least to me, is not the bishounen harem. The interesting part is Yona and how she develops (because she changes a LOT, believe me).

      It is different in some ways because we see a person growing up through struggle; it isn’t just about hot guys everywhere.

      It reminds me of how the media portrayed the Hunger Games as a romantic love triangle so women would get hyped about which “team” (ie, boy) they were on, when really lots of girls read and watched that series because of Katniss, a badass and dynamic female MC.

  11. Well, this was quite the surprise. I wasn’t initially impressed because it seemed like it had a modern era rom-com in a feudal era setting feel. Thankfully, it picked up a bit once they started getting into the feudal era problems such as royalty kidnapping, arranged marriages and the effect it has on someone in love, etc.

    The main thing that hooked me was all the build up with Soo-Won and Yona come crashing down right at the end. Not simply because, “lol, dark elements. Instant fave,” but because this SHOULD have major ramifications on Yona’s character and set up some good character development throughout the story. I love good character development.

    Before the season started I was only mildly interested in this to the point I might not even bother. Now I feel that, depending on how Yona’s reaction to the betrayal goes, this might be a show that I’ll have to keep up with for sure.

  12. I was quite worried about how Pierrot would handle this one after Soresekai, but man, that was a great first episode! Super excited for the next. Hope they can keep up with the great visuals throughout its run. Also, it has been announced as a two-cour so they should be able to do a good adaptation without rushing it!

    Also, the cast here is fantastic! Chiwa Saito in a lead role again? Yesssss.

  13. Looks very interesting. The main character is very young but the setting in Korea seems fresh along with the in-depth story. Will be watching…

    Wish I didn’t read this blog before watching… The ending would’ve really shocked me. Argh, shame on myself

    Rick Anime

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